Often, physicians who perform Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs), hired by the PA workers’ compensation insurance carrier, seem less than truly independent (I know, shocking, huh?). I have heard IME doctors over the years testify that a bulging disc is a natural finding, one that cannot cause symptoms, and cannot lead to nerve impingement. This, of course, is not the only view, as an article on Laser Spine Institute’s website demonstrates.
I also know another person who would disagree with the view shared by these doctors in the IME community. While Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt does not have to worry about the Pennsylvania workers’ comp system (unlike most of us, he gets paid whether he works or not), he does have to live with the symptoms of a bulging disc.
As Mr. Oswalt described in this article on Philly.com, the bulging disc is sending pain down his leg. Interestingly, I have also heard IME doctors testify that a nerve being impinged or irritated by a disc (called “radiculopathy” or “radiculitis”) will cause pain along the entire course of the nerve, down to the foot. In this case, Mr. Oswalt noted that his pain has gradually gone all the way down the leg. Since he has no reason to magnify his symptoms (considering IME doctors would say injured workers always have a financial motivation to lie), this information from Mr. Oswalt is both reliable and persuasive.
This should be a reminder to Workers’ Compensation Judges throughout the State of Pennsylvania, that a bulging disc (even, as Mr. Oswalt has, a “mild” bulging disc) can cause debilitating symptoms that not only can sideline a pitcher, but can put a construction worker, warehouse helper, chef, secretary, nurse and any other job, out of work.